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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  April 23, 2010 12:30pm-1:30pm EDT

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>> charlie: welcome to the broadcast. we begin this evening with a conversation with general david petraeus. he is the man who is in charge of the central command, which means he's in charge of the military effort in ffgz and pakistan. -- in afghanistan or pakistan. >> tell not be a hub to hub offensive, this is as much political as it is military and in fact, that's why it was so important that president kar zywent down to -- that president karzai went down to kandahar and met with 1,500 of the political notables and others and in fact, heard from them, some of them criticism of the afghan government, criticism of president karzai, president karzai in turn, all on the
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television camera pointed a finger at himself and said that indeed some of that does need to be addressed by the afghan government without question. >> charlie: two savvy reporters who just returned from afghanistan. dexter filkins of "the new york times" and greg jaffe of "the washington post." >> the whole thing is to make something that can outlast the american president and make it stable so it once again doesn't become a sanctuary for people like al qaeda, and my overall impression at the moment is that the americans can do that, the americans can do it. it's the afghan part of that that is really, really troubling and i think they're a long way away from that. >> there are limits to what you can do, as dexter said, in kabul because it's so sclerotic there, and that the real diplomacy, where there is room for it potentially is at the local
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level and i think that's both state department, civilians at the provincial level and military, that's where they have hope and i think that's where they think they can make progress. >> charlie: david petraeus, dexter filkins and greg jaffe coming up. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." >> charlie: general david petraeus joins us today. all eyes are now on kandahar,
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the birthplace and the stronghold of the taliban, the site of the next major offensive. joint chiefs of staff chairman mike mullin has said that kandahar is as critical to the mission in afghanistan as baghdad was in iraq. later we'll be joined by dexter filkins and greg jaffe who have just returned from reporting in the region but i'm pleased to have general david petraeus. >> pleased to be with you, charlie. it is the birthplace of the taliban, also where the 9/11 attacks were originally conceived. that's where they were planned. so it has enormous importance to the taliban and to extremists writ large. it will not be a hub-to-hub offensive. this is not going to be something like the clearance of ramadi or, say, southwestern baghdad. this in fact is as much political as it is military, and in fact, that's why it was so
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important that president karzai went down to kandahar a few weeks ago, met with 1,500 of the tribal elders, leaders, political notables and others, and in fact, heard from them, some of them criticism of the afghan government, criticism of president karzai, president karzai in turn forthrightly -- this was all on the television camera, this was not a hand-picked audience, it wasn't just his tribe or friends of the family or anything like that at all. of course, that's also where president karzai's tribe is from, they criticized him and he pointed the finger at himself and said that indeed some of that does need to be addressed by the afghan government without question, so there is a degree of inclusivity which is a huge ingredient to the way ahead because indeed the reason that the taliban has been able to become resurgent in that area, in addition to intimidation, just violent activity, criminal activity and all the rest has
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been an ability to play on a sense of grievance among some elements in the greater kandahar area. keeping in mind, again, this is a large area. it's not just a city, this is also the outlying districts of kandahar as a province, and so again, very important that the political activity complement the military activity because it has to be a comprehensive approach not just a kinetic fight. >> charlie: you have begun to answer a question, that answer that i've always been fascinated by. i once heard you say that part of what happened in baghdad was not just a surge of troops, it was a surge of ideas. >> well, that's exactly right. >> charlie: a surge of ideas in afghanistan. >> the surge in ideas in iraq was more important than the surge of forces because the surge in ideas enabled the rapid focus of securing the population, living with the people to do that, of promoting
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reconciliation and by the way, being able to secure those who were willing to oppose al qaeda and then being able to carry out a host of other activities all of which again complemented, refurbishing markets, rebuilding schools, fostering, again, local dialogue and re-establishment of local security structures and social organizations. a lot of that applicable in afghanistan as well. keeping in mind again enormous differences and a whole variety of different ways. the ways of communication there very different. people don't have satellite dishes on the tops of too many roofs in afghanistan the way they did in iraq. you have radios. there is word of mouth. there is tribal shuras which have enormous importance, greater than the tribal councils that were convened in iraq. at the end of the day, it all comes down to whether the people think they have a brighter future by supporting the afghan government, the afghan local
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officials and so forth, sore if they should throw in with the taliban. and indeed if they're willing to support the government, many of them do -- remember, there is no love lost for the taliban in afghanistan as you know, all the polling data still shows the continued resentment of the way they were treated when the taliban ran that part of the country. the schools for girls, the very oppressive social practices and really quite an extremist approach in general. but having said that, the government does have to be seen to, again, offer a better future for the people, it has to be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the people which meensz it can't be predatory, it can't be corrupt and it can't be a variety of other things -- in some cases has been the fact of the landscape. >> charlie: that's exactly the charge against the government, that it is corrupt. >> karzai would be the first to say that they must address this,
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that they must come to grips with it, and i think again, his appearing at that shura council is a very, very important element of this overall approach. he's going to go back down there. and again, there are two key watchwords -- and we talked to him about this, when ambassador holbrooke and i and the ambassador and general mcchrystal were there after the concept drill we did a couple weekends ago and discussed the importance of these two qualities -- these two components of the approach, and they are inclusivity, ensuring that everyone feels as if there is opportunity for them, they're not shut out by this or that, and then transparency, that all can see what's going on. and that is very important. again, those two components are critical to the way ahead. >> charlie: his brother, whether he on the other hand has some relationship with on our own
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c.i.a. d. >> you don't find blacks and whites in afghanistan, you find gradations of gray. we've achieved a variety of role in a variety of different business enterprises. i've asked as general mcchrystal has, challenged various elements of our government to lay out what we have, and there has been nothing there that you could take to someone and say "look at this," so again, don't want to judge that but what has to happen, again, if you come back to these qualities of inclusivity and transparency, i think the conclusion will be that others have to have opportunities that in some cases perhaps relations, again, with -- associated with government officials have had more uniquely, and so again, there's got to be opportunity for
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everyone, and this is some of what, again, president karzai heard and it's what he told us he's going to address. again, he recognizes these issues, these concerns. he's also been, for example, to kunduz, and marja, and again heard grievances and concerns. >> charlie: at the end of the day do we have any choice but karzai? >> president karzai is the elected head of a sovereign country. again, his success is our success, and we need to work with him, we need to have conversations behind closed doors that may be direct and forthright as occasionally ambassador crocker and i did with prime minister maliki and he did with us, but again, we should most likely keep this behind closed doors and see how we can move this forward in a constructive and productive manner, and i have to say that the conversation, again, that ambassador holbrooke and i had with him two hours, double the
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team that was allotted for it, was quite constructive, it was quite candid -- >> charlie: and -- >> forthright with each other. >> charlie: define what constructive means. >> it talked about -- it talked about specific, substantive issues, and plans, and advanced the ball. we heard, for example, the president -- president karzai's plan and aspirations for the national peace jurga, we talked about the visit to washington and all the different events -- >> charlie: which was cancelled at one time until he fixed the election commission. >> again, it is on the books. it is going to take place. there are some very good activities and events that will be part of that. and again, i'll leave that to the folks in washington to talk about. i don't want to get ahead of them. but that was quite good. discussion of the peace jerga and the importance of this, and by the way, one of the revelations that i think both
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ambassador holbrooke and i returned from kabul with was a recognition of how important this concept of national consensus is. that president karzai desires to achieve through the national peace jurga that will be conducted in kabul. about reaggression and reconciliation, a hugely important -- about reintegration and reconciliation, a hugely important element, trying to turn some of the individuals who have been part of the problem into part of the solution, in other words, low and midlevel taliban leaders being reconciled, reintegrated into the population and perhaps at some point, again, we'll have to see when that time is right when there is an enormous amount of pressure on them, perhaps, at some point discussions with the more senior level leaders of the groups keeping in mind this is not just the taliban, it's the hig, the commander zer, and one
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of those has already initiated conversations, the hig has voted -- >> charlie: and the united nations is having some conversations with people over there too. >> parnl that has been the case. and then there was a discussion in the section of the elections. >> charlie: i'm not trying to get you to beat up on the president of afghanistan. however, all of us also notice a certain erratic behavior in terms of what he says about the united states, about reporting. >> well, look, it's a surprise, i'm sure, but there are domestic politics that play in afghanistan, i know that's not the case in washington or our country but that does take place, and again, this is a partnership, and we do need to try to be good partners. we do need to have candid, forthright, direct, frank and open conversations as the diplomats say behind closed doors.
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probably should keep those behind closed doors. and move forward constructively in public. >> charlie: the end game. you suggested peeling away some of the people at the lower levels of taliban. some say the strategy is, over the next 18 months in kandahar and other places, control population centers, bloody the taliban, peel away some of the members and then negotiate. >> well, again, peeling away is in a sense negotiating. that's what you are doing. so the question is how high can you do that? how high can you eventually -- >> charlie: can you get mullah omarto be part of a government in kabul? >> i don't think anybody would -- anyone would rule that out. there might be skeptics and i might be one of them 10-point, again, his statements indicate that he is -- -- might be one of them at this point, again, his
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statements indicate he might be irreconcilable, in iraq there were people who appeared irreconcilable until we put pressure on them in a huge way. there were others who remained unreconcilable like al-masri. there was an operation, at the end of the day they were surrounded and our belief is that they blew themselves up in the course of an operation that was conducted. >> charlie: there has been real success against al qaeda in iraq. real success in afghanistan and in pakistan? >> well, i would be careful about describing, quote, real success in afghanistan. i think what we have done -- we have worked real hard over the course of the last year to get the inputs right to put in place the components for a comprehensive civil military counter insurgency campaign plan, the right organizations and structures that are necessary for that, the right leaders in charge of them, i
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mentioned demastura, on the u.n. side and an e.u. rep, in addition to general mcchrystal and the other s, to get the concept it ises right and to get the resources in place to carry out the concept under the leaders and the organizations and the resources are still flowing. we're over half of the 30,000 additional forces that president obama ordered as part of the policy announced at west point in early december. we're over 15,000 of those 30,000 but still, that's going to -- and they'll be in place by august, so we have a few more months to go with that. in the meantime, already, though, embarking on the initial operations of the 18-month campaign plan, the first ones being central helmand, now the focus still hanging onto central helmand, still work to be done there and, of course, the taliban will try to come back there, then the focus on kandahar increasingly. there are also some areas in the east, there are some in the north and even some in the
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northwest but again, you've got to stay focused where the bulk of the population is, and as you just described that is the right approach in this case. pakistan, there has indeed been considerable progress by the pakistani army and frontier corps against the pakistani taliban in the northwest frontier province, swat district and so forth and several of the agencies in the tribal areas but clearly very tough work, and again, the extremists there, the pakistani taliban and their confederates have sought to fight back by doing what they do, which is carry out acts of indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians as they did before, they assassinated benazir bhutto and blew up visiting cricket teams and thousands and thousands of innocent pakistani civilians and security force members, but the determination and the perseverance they have demonstrated and the popular support for the continuing operations against extremists
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who they see as representing the most pressing threat to their country's existence as they know it, extremists who want to turn the clock back several centuries instead of allowing it to move forward the way the bulk of the population wants. >> charlie: they saw that in afghanistan. that's exactly what happened. >> they did. >> charlie: and yet somehow, the taliban has come back. >> it has been resurgent -- it go indeed have the momentum. what -- it did indeed have the momentum. we're trying to reverse the momentum and take back areas they have been able to take control of. remember, the population doesn't always have a choice. when the guys with guns come to your town, you sometimes have to be a chameleon, and this is a population that has endured 30 years of war. again, the afghan citizens have, for decades, known that if you want to stay in this village and you want to keep tilling your plot of lands, and here come these other guys, then you may
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have to submit. some of them may become $10-a-day taliban members, as they say. our job, therefore, is not only to help the afghan government point the way to a brighter future for them and their families, you also have to secure them as they're doing that. in iraq, again, it wasn't just that all of a sudden the sunni arabs decided to cut their ties with al qaeda after several years of tacitly or actively supporting the insurgency, it was that we explicitly said "we'll secure you if you do that," and the very first sheik, even before the surge started parked two tanks in front of his house but as we had the surge forces we were able to do that in much greater scale and, of course, we explicitly adopted that approach as we saw the possibilities. >> charlie: if this succeeds, it will be, right or wrong, the fastest implementation of a counterinsurgency strategy ever. >> well, depends where you want to start the clock and how you
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want to do that. there is no question that from the time of getting the inputs right, which is about now, to the time that we want to begin -- but i think it's very important to recall that what the president said very precisely at west point was that july 2011, we'll begin the transition of tasks to -- >> charlie: so the beginning point, not the end point. >> the beginning point. we've worked hard in the region to do that. what he was trying to convey, i think was the message of urgency, not this is the end date but the message of urgency that we've got to get on with it because at that date the surge in a responsible manner, his term again is going to start to be drawn -- drawn down. >> charlie: a message to the u.s. everufz military that you have to get this fast -- to the u.s. military. >> at one point he looked down the table and said, "dave, can you get these forces quickly?"
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and i made the call to the of the command and said, general duncan, i wrote a check and i need to make sure it won't bounce." >> charlie: can you make it work? it's also support that you have to -- >> it is. it's logistics nation and transportation nation, both of them, and in fact, it was not coincidental that secretary gates and i linked up at scott air force base in illinois, recently, the headquarters of u.s. transportation command and the secretary pinned on their colors -- a joint meritorious unit award streamer recognizing the extremities extraordinary performance, the extraordinary work that they have done. >> charlie: get it over there in time -- >> again, it's not just 30,000 troopers as you know, it's 10's of thousands of items of equipment, down very difficult lines of communication. we have been able to expand them in the north and the stands of central asian states but it is very, very difficult, and much
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tougher in that regard than the surge into iraq where we had excess infrastructure to a degree, and here we're having to build it as we go. >> charlie: let me turn to the middle east and the israeli-palestinian conflict and ability so far -- and the inability so far to come to any kind of lasting agreement. therefrom has been some indication that you either said or testified or put in a memo that unless we can do something about that, it's going to be much more difficult to do our job in the region and secondly, that it gave all of the people that we were contending with, the absence of a middle east peace, talking points to make their case? >> yeah, in the posture statement that i submitted -- the annual posture statement for the house armed services committee, 56-page document nthere we described the factors that influenced the context
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within which we brate operate, noting illinois and palestinian territories not in central command but what happens there does have an influence there obviously on the arab world and we listed these 11 factors that included al qaeda, shia extremism supported by iran piracy, inadequate governance in some cases, inequities of wealth, and the lack of progress on a just middle east peace -- >> charlie: tell me what you -- >> and what i'm getting at there is that that lack of progress makes it more difficult for moderate leaders in relative terms in the arab world to say to their populations that there can be progress achieved through negotiation, and it also gives the extremists, those who deny the right of israel to exist in some cases or those who oppose
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israel, again, ahmadinejad who even denies the holocaust, he needs to make a visit to the museum in washington as i did, that gives them an argument, and secretary of state clinton has laid this out very effectively, i think, as well that they can say the only time we of achieve progress on say the palestinian issue or other issues is through violence, through an intifada so don't get your hopes up through diplomacy, in fact, don't support that -- let's just get ready for the next conflict. now, as secretary clinton has laid out, there are three challenges with respect to the status quo. working against our strong and ally to whom we have, again, a very strong commitment, and that's been reaffirmed by all members of the administration.
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in recent weeks. demographically there are challenges if israel wants to stay a democratic and jewish state, and unless you can get a two-state solution that becomes very difficult. technologically, the increasing range in numbers of rockets and missiles and everything else, again, the status quo is not sustainable. >> charlie: battle of ideas. >> that's all we were trying to lay out. >> charlie: you didn't link it to the loss of lives of americans -- >> i did not at all. you read the statement and that is not in there, what it said is that it makes it more difficult, again, to achieve our objectives and it makes it again more difficult for the moderate regimes in that region to do that, so there was some very clear misrepresentation of that and, of course, it came at an emotional moment when you had the vice president biden visit. >> charlie: and the netanyahu visit. >> yeah. >> charlie: and in fact, there
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was some sense that it represented -- this is characterized too -- it represented a change of view by this administration and that this president realized that settlement of that was so important, the conflict for all the reasons that you outlined along with other reasons that he was going to push harder than anybody else had. >> well, i think he started that from day one, actually. another misrepresentation was that i had recently gone to the president and said we've got to get more attention here. not the case. i did -- as the administration was forming i was asked as a number of us were asked what do we think should be the priorities and this type, and i said that i thought -- i knew afghanistan and pakistan were going to be high on the list but i thwart the middle east peace process needed a boost because of the effect that progress can have, again, on the region writ large but hadn't communicated
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anything like that since that time, since the very beginning of the administration. >> charlie: the president just had a summit. >> again, the appointment of senator mitchell was hugely significant. >> charlie: he got started on day one. >> yes, and we have sought to support him at various times. that's been possible, and all the others connected with that, keep in mind not actually part of our region. >> charlie: which is an interesting question. some believe you you believe it ought to be part of your -- >> i did not. we submitted a unified command recommendation -- >> charlie: would it be a good idea? >> we thought about it, we didn't think it was a good enough idea to request it formally, i can tell you that, there are a lot second, third and fourth -- >> charlie: some argue that ambassador holbrooke's ought to include india also because india is so close to pakistan. >> again, eats not in the title but he has certainly had a lot of activity with our indian
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partners. >> charlie: so if you look at the middle east today, look at the battle of ideas. look at where we stand and what we are trying to do. what's the toughest struggle? >> i think it depends on the day of the week. there are challenges, obviously, a number of those, in fact interestingly, right now if you went to an arab leader you would probably -- the first paragraph would probably revolve around iran and the second paragraph might be mideast peace but it used to be the other way around. but now, i think actually iran is casting a much broader shadow, and it's, of course, the pursuit of the nuclear programs that it has, the support -- continued support, the army and training funding of extremist elements, proxy elements in iraq, the meddling in iraqi politics that has been found out
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on, if you will, and the iraqi people not happy with that -- support to lebanese hezbollah continuing and, of course, now they've got over 10,000 rockets and missiles pointed at israel. support for hamas, in gaza. and the general -- just the sheer rhetoric of president ahmadinejad -- and again, with slightly jokingly said he's the best recruiting officer for central command, but it's true because he scares people. he has rhetoric that is -- again, causes you to shake your head, again, denying the holocaust and all the rest of this -- so therefore, those on the other side of the gulf want to embrace centcom more than ever before. >> charlie: what do they want you to do? that's the question. what do the moderate arab nations, all those who are worried to death about iran, a, because of its leadership, b, because of its capacity to
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develop a nuclear capability? what do they want you to do? >> yeah, again it's sort of typical, i think, around the world that a lot of folks would like the united states to solve a lot of the world's problems and i think that goes with perhaps being the world's sole remaining superpower. it is interesting there is almost a slight degree of bipolar disorder with iran and its nuclear issue. on the one hand there are concerns someone might strike iran. on the other hand, there are concerns that someone might not strike iran, and i think that really captures this whole conundrum that i think secretary gates and others have been quite -- and chairman mullen have explained that, again, the second, third, fourth-order effects of a strike could be quite significant. needless to say, to the global economy and a whole host of
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other activities and yet on the other hand you've got to stop that program, and certainly, you know, rightly, there was every effort last year to advance the effort diplomatally to stretch out an open hand, iran did not take advantage of that, if anything they rebuffed it or worse. >> charlie: they had an election that was -- >> the hijacking of the election, people were not fooled, even as narrow as the confines of an election were in iran, at the end of the day the iranians hijacked the election for fear that ahmadinejad wouldn't win -- the really hamhanded way that was done -- the people -- so obvious to the people, and that created outrage so you have internal strive and demonstrations and so forth -- internal strife and demonstrations that led to a greater role for the kuds force because the supreme leader had
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to rely on them to put down this unrest, so there are a lot of worrying trends there, needless to say if you're in that neighborhood, and that's the central command neighborhood, and there are concerns obviously to the world writ large. >> charlie: we may very well wake up one day and what we're talking about is containment. >> i wouldn't presume that just yet. this is years away. i think general cartwright laid out quite effectively the other day in testimony in capitol hill basically the time line for this, it does continue to slide to the right, they do have technical difficulties and the natanz refinery, there is a degree of bragging about capabilities that is not generally borne out but they do continue to advance, and they'll have a couple failed missile attacks or rocket tests or whatever and then they will move
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forward and they have continued to enrich low-enriched uranium and they're doing a small amount of more highly enriched uranium, as it does stretch to the right, trends are not good and, of course, causes enormous concern in the region and in the world. >> charlie: is our military overstretched? >> i think it's instructive to recall what happened when we had the disaster in haiti, and the fact is that we were able to flow a substantial number of forces down there on quite short notice and they were on alert for that kind of mission. we actually thought more domestic. there is a force always on call in the 82nd, and we have that now. we did not have that during the surge in iraq. we had everything engaged during the surge in iraq. we are stretching out now the time between deployments for our brigade comment teams in the army for the tactical units in the marines as an example.
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so, i think we're gradually getting the so-called dwell-time back, we had the capacity to, again, without interrupting the flow of forces to afghanistan, to again, provide this assistance in haiti that was quite substantial and we have a lot of other capacity for other high-end stuff too, i'm sure that people should know. what we're doing in afghanistan is largely a ground effort supported by certain types of air enablers and other assets like that but there are a lot of others that are not engaged in that kind of fight that could be used for other activities as needed for high-end stuff. >> charlie: is al qaeda on the run? >> i don't know if i would say that specifically. >> charlie: how would you say it? >> i think i would say that they are under pressure, certainly in the central command area they are diminished over, say, a year ago or what have you, but having said that, again, you have to keep looking at every location in their network, every node, and you have to keep pressure on
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them everywhere. you cannot let up. there is no silver bullet. there is no stake in the heart. yes, we killed the number one and number two in al qaeda in iraq and also then killed the military emir of northern iraq in the last 48 hours as well and captured some others that, by the way, led to the deaths of these two top leaders but the fact is there is still a capacity for violence, we will see periodic attacks and we must help our partners keep that pressure on and that's what we must do everywhere, we're very concerned about yemen as we discussed before, that emerged over the course of the last several years. we worked hard this past year to help our partners there to come to grips with that challenge. there's concerns about somalia. we have to keep the pressure on wherever al qaeda is located. it takes a network to deal with a network. that is what has been established. that's what we have.
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>> charlie: if the president calls you and says, "general, define for me your primary mission." what would you say? >> in a macro sense it's obviously to advance our interests in the region. we do that, obviously, in different ways in different countries. we do it in iraq now by supporting our partners. we're about to transition by the end of august not only to a substantially smaller force down from say a little under 95,000 now to 50,000 but then a change of mission where we will enable and assist. that's how we do it there. in afghanistan, obviously, we're fighting, we certainly have afghan partners but we're in the lead in a number of areas,oir certainly partnered at the least in various -- or certainly partnered at the least in various areas, providing assistance, equipment, funding in some cases, occasionally sharing some information or what have you, so what we're trying to do is what's appropriate in each country, and ideally to enable the country to do it
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itself rather than for us to do it so that we're pursuing the security interests wherever it is, in many of these countries it's building partnerships. it's building their capabilities for the future. it may be through bilateral arrangements that we can turn into multilateral effects by being an integrator of some of these, say integrator in the missile defense in the gulf states in the western side of the gulf, but that's, i think, broadly, just very broadly what it is that we do, and we do it, of course, in quite an integrated way with the diplomats who are in all of the embassies, with the other interagency elements who are active in our area of pragszs because it has to be a comprehensive approach. i've discussed before how countering terrorism can't be done just with counterterrorist forces. it has to be really a whole of governments, with an s on the end approach, a comprehensive approach so that yes, certainly, counterterrorist forces are a critical element, they're killing or capturing bad guys
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who are irreconcilable, you can never shrink from that but you also must get at the reasons why certain populations might be drawn to extremism. why certain areas might be fertile fields for the planting of seeds of extremism and so forth. and that you do by again, helping other partners host nations, regional partners, other civilian agencies, diplomats and all the rest of that. >> charlie: and minimizing all those things that caused the local population not to want to cooperate with you, including the killing of civilians. >> exactly, yeah, absolutely. again, loss of innocent civilian -- loss of innocent civilian life in the course of a military operation is unavoidable but it must be reduced to an absolute minimum. you cannot have a tactical success where you've killed a bunch of taliban and al qaeda, whatever, undermined and become a strategic setback because of the number of innocent civilians killed in it if at all possible, and if it was not possible, you
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can then go out to the podium and tell the press, tell the country, tell the local leaders why it was not possible but we've got to reduce that to an absolute minimum, general mcchrystal has made that a centerpiece of his guidance and his civil military campaign plan that he's worked out with the ambassador and the other members of the civilian interagency. >> charlie: also with a caveat if an american life is in danger and we have to do something to prevent it we'll do it. >> absolutely. we'll never tie the hands of our soldiers behind their back, if you will, when they're going against a vicious, barbaric and tough enemy like this but clearly there has to be thought before you drop that bomb and again, there will be cases -- we always want to take the fight to the enemy. that's what we do. it's in our jargon. it's in our d.n.a. we want to press the fight. all of these different terms. but there are times in this kind of endeavor where you may not want to press the fight if you're not decisively engaged
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because you don't know who is in that house that you might consider dropping a bomb on, and indeed if there are a number of civilians in there, that may offset whatever number of taliban you kill. we used to have this concept in iraq when i was there, we started as a division commander, we would say we would like to have fewer enemies at the end of the end of the day than we had when we started and you don't do that just by killing or capturing them, you have to avoid making more enemies and that's why these men and women are so exceptional, it's why we call them strategic sergeants and strategic lieutenants. they are carrying out tactical operations that can have strategic effects. some of those can be good but some of them can be bad and you can undermine the overall strategy, you can unhinge your overall campaign, again, if the wrong call is made, and they have enormous responsibility, and they discharge it
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magnificently, a vast, vast majority of the time. >> charlie: thank you for coming. >> great to be back. >> charlie: good to see you. david petraeus, the man who runs central command huge responsibilities for the american military in very strategic places in the globe. back in a moment. we'll talk more about afghanistan and pakistan. stay with us. ♪ >> charlie: we continue with two top journalists who have long experienced reporting in afghanistan and on national security. joining me in new york, dexter filkins of "the new york times," he's just returned from the region, his book "the forever war" won a national books circle award. he co-authored a book about the u.s. military called "the fourth star." tom ricks of "the washington post" said a sparkling account of today's u.s. army, a work of art that offers novelistic detail but also important fact.
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i begin with dexter filkins who just got back. tell me what is happening on the ground today after the campaign in marjah and now as they anticipate the campaign -- the summer offensive against kandahar. >> speaking very, very broadly, there is kind of a sort of good and discouraging -- i mean, there is good going on and there is not so good going on and the good part is the american part -- i mean, i think they've got all their pieces in place. they're getting the resources they need. they're getting the 30,000 troops. and they've got -- i think they've got a plan that -- all the way down to the ground, counter insurgency, securing kandahar which they're going to try to do, basically taking the whole helmand river valley all the way to kandahar, most of the population in that area, it's a really good plan and i think way down on the ground when you're out on foot patrol with the 21-year-olds, they're good,
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they're really good. that part's pretty encouraging to me. when you go out with the 21-year-olds. the thing that's not encouraging to me is the afghan part of this -- is the afghan government in particular, and you know at the end of the day the americans can do everything right, they can do everything they want to do and achieve all their goals but at some point they've got to hand it off, and who do they hand it off to? and that part is really, really troubling to me, whether you're talking about president karzai and some of the things he's done and said or his brothers and his family around him or the -- corruption -- >> charlie: you heard about the brother. he asked everybody -- every security official to present them with the evidence of the corruption. is he being -- what? >> i think they're setting the bar high. if you want to go to court and
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prove beyond a reasonable doubt right now, maybe you can't do that, but what you are talking about is making a political decision about who is the best person that you should move forward with. >> charlie: they have no options, do they? it's karzai? >> all their options are pretty bad. >> charlie: karzai is the national figure but at the same time you're dealing in regions where -- i'm asking, i'm not making a statement -- >> no, i think that is the problem but i think you've got to have somebody -- at the end of the day you've got to have -- the whole goal here is to build something that can outlast the american present and can stand on its own and make the country stable so that it doesn't once again become a sanctuary for people like al qaeda, and my overall impression that the at the moment is that the americans can do that -- the americans can do it. the afghan part of that, that is
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really, really troubling, and that's -- i think they're a long, long way away from that. >> charlie: you hear that reflected by the americans that are having the relationship with the karzai government? >> absolutely. you hear it everywhere. you particularly hear it from the afghans because as most of the polls show, what do the afghans really -- what are they really unhappy with? is it the americans? no. is it the taliban? sort of. what are they really unhappy with? who do they really hate? the afghan government. it's predatory. whether you have to pay a bribe to a police officer, at a checkpoint or if you want to be the police chief of a district in northern afghanistan you have to pay $50,000, it's one thing after another. the government doesn't work very well and it's not in very many places. >> i agree with dexter that i think it's generally a good plan. i think the one place where you hear battalian and brigade commanders complain is that they would like to have a bottom-up strategy a little bit in regard to governance and their hands are really tied because the
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district governors -- essentially, the low-level leaders are centrally chosen by kabul and i think they would like to have a little bit more freedom to work around kabul to build a sort of base of support to allow locals to choose their own leadership and that's been a tricky thing for them. >> yeah, you mentioned marjah, marjah is not a district but the local governor appointed by karzai, he has a criminal record, he was in jail for stabbing his son and that's kind of -- >> charlie: what can you do to change this? what do they think they can do to change this? >> i think -- they talk about doing an end-run around karzai, they've talked about that for a long time, let's just -- the central government in kabul is corrupt, it's inefficient, it doesn't work very well, let's bypass it, let's send the money directly to the districts, it's hard to do when the local guys all the way down at the level, as greg says are appointeded by
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karzai himself so it's pretty hard. all the choices are bad. they've got to just work with what they have, and i think that that is one of the biggest problems as greg pointed out. >> charlie: greg, why doesn't karzai -- it would seem to me self evident that he needs the united states. maybe he assumes the united states needs him and so it's a standoff. i don't know. >> yeah. i think what's the line when you owe the bank a trillion dollars, you owe the bank a billion dollars the bank is in trouble. >> charlie: go ahead. >> he's got a fair amount of leverage and i think he recognizes it and he recognizes that i think we're in for the long haul to a certain extent. >> charlie: when you talk about the american effort, how successful has the state department side of this -- the richard holbrooke side of this taken hold? >> you know, i actually think
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there are limits to what you can do, as dexter said, in kabul because it's so kind of sclerotic there. and that the real diplomacy, where there is room for it is at the local level, provincial and district level and military and civilians, that's where they think they have hope and that's where they think they can make progress. >> charlie: how is mcchrystal different? >> from the last guy? >> charlie: yeah. >> he's different mostly in emphasis, but he is totally committed -- totally committed -- i mean, in every conversation -- to the overall strategy which is protect the population first and foremost, and that means killing taliban is like number five on the list. protect the people. make friends. even if that means -- >> charlie: is this an idea he got from poe trace? is this an idea he got from
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experience? -- from petraeus? is this an idea he got from experience? or a personnel manual? >> if you remember, general mcchrystal for five years was head of jsoc which is basically the guys who were going after al qaeda. >> charlie: their mission was to kill as many people as possible. >> yeah, kick the doors in and go after the bad guys, kill and capture, that was go to the ball, so he had to completely relearn all this stuff. these guys are always thinking and the experience of iraq showed that you can't kill and capture your way to victory. you can't -- it's not a finite number. the insurgencies, whether it's taliban or iraq, they learned that and they learned that the way that you can -- the way to get ahead is to make friends and to change the politics. kill the really bad guys, but you're not going to be able to shoot your way out of this, and i think mcchrystal knows this better than anybody and i think he makes that point wherever he
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goes. to his soldiers. >> charlie: what are we learning from people like bardar, now that the u.s. has access to him, interrogation of him? >> that's a really, really complicated -- nobody, including the americans -- nobody really knows what the pakistani leadership is doing right now. they have picked up baradir. it was a joint operation. they picked him up, took them 48 hours to realize he was the deputy commander of the taliban, mullah omar's deputy but since then they've picked up a number of senior taliban leaders. why have they done that? nobody really knows. >> charlie: why they're picking them up or how they're able to pick them up? >> why they're picking them up -- i think the operating assumption has been they could have done this in 2002 if they wanted to. >> charlie: why are they doing it now? >> exactly. >> charlie: what are the options? >> i think they're recalculating
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their self interest -- i mean, the best evidence suggests that the pakistanis want to sit at the table when the end game comes, and their best chips -- their best chips are the taliban leaders so they're bringing them in close, so they want a seat at the table and these are their guys and they want to control them if the end game comes but there is no end game yet so we'll z. >> there is a little bit of frustration, i think, on the pakistani side particularly in the east as weave pulled back from these remote areas as they push against what we see as their primary threat, i think there is frustration that those folks are facing some safe haven to the remote areas of northeastern afghanistan where u.s. troops have pulled away to focus more on the population, so in some ways they have a grievance with us as much as we tend to have an -- a grievance with them? >> charlie: is there a different
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feeling today after what general petraeus has said that this thing is more winnable than they might have imagined 14 months ago when they took office? >> is there more optimism now? >> charlie: yeah. >> yeah, i think so. i think so. at least for the short term, i think if you have -- if you had the military guys here, they would say weave arrested the slide -- the situation is no longer deteriorate -- say we've arrested the slide, the situation is no longer deteriorating. >> charlie: how did they do that? >> i think they feel like they've regained the initiative in certain places, places like marjah and now there is going to be a gigantic operation in kandahar which is kind of the heartland, so in that sense i feel like they feel like they're making things happen in a way they weren't before and now they've got the resources they need and so -- but when you spend time with the senior military guys, they are not
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cocky about this. they're worried. >> charlie: they're not certain about it. >> absolutely not. and they feel -- they feel like we're doing everything we can do but the clock is ticking -- the clock is ticking here in the united states. we're not going to have unlimited resources forever. it's make or break time. they're uneasy about that. >> charlie: talk to me a little bit about bali. >> it's an incredibly small place, an incredibly isolated valley. people in the valley speak pavb tun but they also speak ka-- speak pashtun but they also speak gali. there was a bloody stalemate there until general mcchrystal
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decided to pull u.s. troops out of there and i think it raises interesting questions. it is a tough lesson in sort of the limits of american goodwill and the limits of power and i think it's a recognition that the afghan government at least in the next few years is not going to control all of that country and may never control a place like the korinnegal valley. >> it's a good indication of one of the overall objectives, which is that control the population centers, and because his resources are limited that means writing off some places. and the korinnegali was a place they decided to write off, come back another day, it's not worth the resources it takes. bring the american troops to some place with more people. >> charlie: when do you go back? >> soon. couple of weeks. >> charlie: are you going to see
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this story through? are you? >> i don't know. i don't think so. i don't think so. i think -- i think we're many years away from that. even -- even by the most optimistic projections, i think we're a long way away. >> charlie: are you thinking about another book? >> well, we'll see what happens. >> charlie: thank you. dexter filkins, one of the right war correspondents today and greg jaffe, four generals in the epic struggle for the future of the united states army will give you a real history through the personnel. how the army has been shaped and some of the ideas that are part of the conversation about national security policy. thank you, greg. >> sure. thanks. >> charlie: thank you for joining us. see you next time. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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